Citizens who have helped crime victims honored

April 13, 2011 4:31:43 AM PDT
The Cook County state's attorney Tuesday night honored citizens who have helped victims of crime, and in one case, who risked their own lives to do so.

The awards coincide with National Crime Victims' Rights Week.

Among this year's recipients: a couple who stood up to the gangs in their neighborhood and whose lives are still in danger.

For that reason, the couple will remain anonymous, but State's Attorney Anita Alvarez told their story.

"In all honesty, they put their life on the line to testify in a case - it was a gang-related case where a man lost his life, and they were intimidated," said Alvarez.

Five people received awards in total. John Gordon's brother Michael was a Chicago police officer killed by a drunk driver in the line of duty seven years ago. Now, Gordon attends parole hearings for cop killers.

"It's like reliving my loss over every time I do it," said Gordon. "I just think about those families having to relive this incident after thirty years to go through it every year. They give me strength.

Award recipient Sarah Layden found her calling as a rape victim's advocate on the city's West Side.

"We ensure that they're treated with dignity and compassion," said Layden. "We also aim to affect a change in the way that law enforcement, medical institutions and society as a whole responds to rape."

Arnetta Williams also received an award Tuesday. She came to the aid of an elderly cousin whom she had lost touch with. Williams found out that her cousin was being severely neglected and that her cousin's money was being stolen.

"We discovered her lying stiff, unable to move - in filth," said Williams. "We were so thankful that we were able to put her in a safe environment and make her comfortable and safe."

Williams's cousin went on to spend five years in her care. She died last week. She would have turned 91 in a few days.